Monday, April 30, 2012

Chicago Botanic Garden at Night

On September 28th (ah, here so soon...), I will be giving a walk on Evening Garden Treasures at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  We will be looking at how to experience the night garden hopefully in different ways than mainstream, i.e. beyond white and fragrant flowers. So it was a nice surprise last week after that bird lecture to be able to explore the CBG at night. Especially with a picturesque moon.

These first two shots were taken in the Heritage garden. You can see some of the night time lighting and reflections. I love how the circle of trees (Bald Cypress as I recall) hasn't leafed out yet and thus has a strong sculptural presence.

The last image shows an allee of trees (I forget what kind) leading away from the Education Building down to that pond being renovated by day.

Chicago Botanic Garden at Dusk

I appreciate those rare occasions when I am in a landscape at dawn or dusk when the light shows gardens to their best advantage. Last week I was lucky enough to experience magical lighting effects when I attended a program on Bird Conservation in Guatemala at 7 pm.

The above combo of Birch and Daffodils completely captivated me by the manner in which the white reflected the light of the setting sun.

Here you can see me stopped in my tracks by the fun shadows contrasted with the sheen of the gravel.

Below I managed to slightly capture a back-lit Willow.  Added interest can be seen behind the tree where CBG is redoing a pond.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wonder who hacked into my latest post?

I wouldn't have imagined that my little blog merited being hacked into. But that seems to have happened today, shortly after my most recent post on water rights and Hoover Dam. They just put in a few nonsense characters in a few places. Changed my password: we'll see if it happens again...

Social & Environmental Justice: Water Rights

 An article in today's 4/25/12 Huffington Post continues the discussion about water rights re: Hoover Dam and Climate Change. "Las Vegas Water Permits Appeals Filed by Environmental Groups, Indian Tribes," discusses one of the effects of reduced water levels in Lake Mead. Basically, Las Vegas wants to supplement its lower water levels with water from rural areas. Everybody has a stake and it is interesting to see different bedfellows and imagine their motivations and behavior. Aside from the two groups mentioned above, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and people in rural counties in Nevada and Utah, have filed.

Simeon Herskovits, attorney for the Great Basin Water Network, argued that the series of rulings sanction "unsustainable water exports" and "improperly rely on a woefully inadequate monitoring and mitigation plan as a substitute for ensuring that the project will not cause impermissible harms."
Here in Chicago, because we are on Lake Michigan, one of the largest sources for fresh water in the world, our issues surrounding water rights differ from Vegas.  But it's the same players ultimately. And Big Business has Big Pocketbooks...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Human Intervention in Natural Resources

This post is a follow-up to a comment made to my 4.12.12 post about Climate Change and Hoover Dam.  That comment wondered about the wisdom of human intervention altering the Colorado River and forming Lake Mead in the first place. While I love that the reader asked the question and I might agree, I would answer that I try to focus on the present, with a consciousness of the past. I see part of our task in working with what we inherit.

These images bring home what that means to me explicitly in my work with Guatemala and AFOPADI and Earthways. The photos are from the Mayan Mam mountain village of T'umiche, one of the communities where they work. Shown are a typical village path and also a sign that the community erected which basically translates as "T'umiche sticks to the decision taken in the referendum." In other words, the indigenous communities voted against the intrusion of the nearby Marlin gold mine owned by the Canadian company Gold Corps. Guatemala's equivalent of their Supreme Court even voted in favor of the Indigenous. None of that mattered however. The mine exists and contaminates the environment as you would expect...despite much corporate propaganda to the contrary.

So as much as I wish that mine wasn't there, I see the question in the present as how to deal with that reality in a productive way that promotes social justice and environmental health.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why I am not a proof reader, etc.

A few people emailed flower ID suggestions for last post. One, Deet, even kindly corrected my spelling as follows:
"How nice...the way u spell flower. It shows that you are still very young. My daughter stopped saying fower at about 4."
Deet also suggested Indian Paintbrush for that vivid red Mojave flower.  Which is what Jill from CBG thought, as did I.  But, I didn't mention it because that flower blooms so much later in the summer for us...

These images show my huge victory in the "Cobbler's Children" Category.  I managed to clean out the evergreens on my back porch last weekend...the only remaining clean-out belongs to my neighbor Rick, the other plant professional in our condo. I also did my second weeding in my tiny front plot.
The nice surprise was this Hosta below that overwintered. It shouldn't have since the pot is tiny and unprotected.  But the porch is very sheltered and given our record-breaking winter of warm temps (great article on how people are finally acknowledging Climate Change in today's [4.18.12] NY Times), I shouldn't be. I recall I got it last spring as an annual on a client outing for roses at Milaegers in Racine, WI.  'Paul's Glory' is the cultivar name I recall.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fower Petals

I was walking home and passed under a very mature Crab Apple. What stopped me in my tracks was actually the fragrance. It was wonderful: not too sweet or cloying. Years ago it was planted by a neighbor who played in the Chicago Symphony. But since he retired and moved to Maine, I can't ask him for ID.

But the petals on the ground were very Japanese. And I felt might evoke all the sentiments that accompany cherry blossoms. 

Later that day, my husband texted me this photo he took of a wildflower in Red Rock Canyon outside Vegas. I don't know what it is, but can imagine how it might stand out to a bird amidst all that grey and bits of green I walked in two weeks ago.

The shape of its petals makes me believe it is attractive to nectar-seeking birds. So, if you know of any in that part of the Mojave: do tell.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Special Birds: Bluebird & Quetzal

As I currently have a client who works for Audubon, birds are on my mind. This morning, walking along the lake in Evanston, I saw three trees that drew my attention. Each had a special bird perched there.  I wondered who was so fun...

Coincidentally, this client and I have in common a love for Guatemala and a long history of involvement with the country and its people.  She brought to my attention a free program at the Chicago Botanic Garden about the national bird of Guatemala on 26 April 2012:

Since there is hardly any Cloud Forest left where I work in Guatemala, the Quetzals have long since disappeared in that part of the country (NW mountains near Mexican border). I joke that the only Quetzal I have ever seen is on this gate we pass as we drive up to the higher villages. So I am looking forward to the event. It details a program in the area near Coban which is a coffee-growing region north of Guatemala city.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Climate Change: Hoover Dam

Hoover dam's impressiveness outweighed even the annoyances of Spring Break crowds. This was my first trip inside to see the mechanism which helped tremendously since I had grown fuzzy on how the dam actually works. Our tour guide clarified how they dealt with the initial side channels that had to be constructed in order to stop the central flow of the Colorado River in order to build the dame. It was built as a WPA project back in the late 1930s when certain parts of our government had a bit more compassion than now for its citizens who were unemployed as a result of lack of accountability among those in power.

 I learned some interesting facts:

1.) The dam is not attached to the surrounding rock. Why? More flexible and thus more sustainable during earthquakes.
2.) Climate Change is affecting Hoover Dam.  Apparently the water level of Lake Mead was recently down 150 feet! Last year (2011, record snows), the level rose 50 feet but the lake is still too low.  You can see the level change below, where the bleached rock weaves around the top of the lake. I was glad our guide explicitly told the tour group that Climate Change was making things unpredictable for Hoover Dam. 

 Today I did a little Internet sleuthing and, through DEMOCRACY NOW, came across Amy Goodman's article on Climate Change & the Maldives.  She mentions a recent article in Scientific American from September 16, 2011 entitled: "World's Dam's Unprepared for Climate Change Conditions." The article quotes John Matthews (Director of fresh water & adaption for Conservation International) on Hoover Dam saying it:
"...was designed based on a 30-year period that had marked higher precipitation levels than today. As a result of a decade of drought, the dam is now operating at only 30 percent of its capacity...and new mechanisms have been added to cope with the lower water levels."
I found Matthews next comment especially interesting given my non-profit work in Guatemala:
"When infrastructure plans are based on a set climate scenario, rather than a flexible one, it can be very costly in both human and economic terms, especially in the developing world..."
More on this in another post.

For now, I wanted people to see the beautiful design in the marble floor near the turbines. It is a Native American motif and I believe it's good to channel that energy here since they were the people we could learn from in terms of making choices based on seven generations ahead of the present.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Red Rock Canyon: Can't get enough!

Last week I was out in Las Vegas to see the brilliant chiropractor, Dr. Timothy Francis...always vital after my visits to Guatemala.

Just as healing as his work are my hikes in Red Rock Canyon.  Especially miraculous since last week turned out to be Spring Break. Crowds are artfully hidden here.

[Ignore the date on the B&W. It's a default on my App. Hipstamatic. So if anybody knows how to get rid of it, obviously no iPhone cameras in '92, please enlighten me!]

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter Activities in Antigua, Guatemala

A day or two after I returned from Guatemala, these wonderful photos were sent to me by Jessie Szopinski who works in Antigua for Common Hope. The carpets are usually made from flowers, so this veggie masterpiece is unusual. Jessie wrote that the veggies had to be moved before the float could proceed so they were swept to the side and people swooped them up immediately. Since this week is the biggest tourist onslaught all year, there are probably more gringos in current photos taken.